Area superintendents sign letter of concern to governor

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Former Monett superintendent's letter gets 77 other supers' support

Five local superintendents of schools are among the 77 total in southwest Missouri who have signed a letter of concern submitted to Gov. Eric Greitens addressing actions taken regarding the state board of education.

John Jungmann, former Monett superintendent and current superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, and Kevin Patterson, superintendent of the Ozark school district, submitted a letter to the Springfield News-Leader concerned about possible proliferation of charter schools in the state and asking Gov. Greitens to visit southwest Missouri Schools.

Superintendents of the following local schools signed the letter: Richard Asbill, Cassville; Steven Chancellor, Purdy; Lance Massey, Wheaton; Tony Simmons, Verona; Russ Moreland, Pierce City; and Shelly Fransen, Shell Knob.

In the letter, Jungmann began by saying the 77 total southwest Missouri superintendents are deeply concerned with actions taken by Greitens, which they believe will lead to a drastic change in the landscape of Missouri education.

"Membership on the Missouri State Board of Education now appears to be limited to those who agree to the demand from Governor Greitens that the current commissioner of education be terminated," Jungmann wrote. "This is unprecedented and undermines Missouri’s constitution, which designed the State Board of Education to be independent.

"We fear that this strategy will culminate in the appointment of an out-of-state charter school advocate with no understanding of our state or region, who intends to bring a national school reform agenda to Missouri that is a proven failure across our country. We implore Governor Greitens to reconsider. Continuation on this path will harm the educational experience and destroy collaborative progress."

On Monday, faced with possibly failing to gain enough votes to fire State School Commissioner Margie Vandeven in a special meeting on Tuesday, Greitens withdrew an appointee to the state school board, Tim Sumners of Joplin.

Sumners, a volunteer police and fire department chaplain named to the board in October, said he was aware his position may be in jeopardy and asked to delay Tuesday's meeting due to Greitens' replacing of members on the board in the past six months, aimed at getting the votes to oust Vandeven. Sumners was named to the board after another nominee was withdrawn when she raised concerns about Greitens pressuring members to fire the commissioner. Another appointee was named, but rejected the position, and a third quit after learning he did not qualify.

On Tuesday, just before the special meeting, he appointed Jennifer Edwards, co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia Missouri, to replace Sumners. After a short closed State Board meeting, it was announced a motion made to dismiss Vandeven failed by a 4-4 vote. The board will meet again on Dec. 1, and Board President Charlie Shields said the future of the commissioner could come up again.

Jungmann, in his letter, implored Greitens to come visit southwest Missouri schools.

"We know that Governor Greitens has a complex, difficult and time-consuming job, but we believe he will find tremendous value in visiting our schools and classrooms," Jungmann said. "These visits will provide a clear picture of the heroic work happening – thanks to our educators, support staff and community partners.

"By accepting our invitation, Governor Greitens will have an opportunity to see, first-hand, the thousands of talented Missouri educators in action. It will be clear why our public schools are the cornerstone of our communities."

Some of the points Jungmann pointed to include the local communities' addressing of health, hunger and hygiene needs of students; use of advanced placement, International Baccalaureate, dual credit, and career and technical education opportunities; seeing the local Parents as Teachers programs; seeing how businesses engage with schools through programs like GO CAPS; learning about collaboration experiences with events like the Innovation Summit and STAR Summit; hearing from parents; and witnessing the uniqueness of how each community represents their respective communities' best interests.

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